Abuse victim: Chaput canceled face-to-face meeting after media attention

7/15/16 | Maria Panaritis | Philadelphia Inquirer

A onetime “altar boy of the year” who was raped by one of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s most notorious abuser priests said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput this week canceled a face-to-face meeting with him because he told the media about it.

John Delaney, raped by the Rev. James J. Brzyski when Delaney was a boy, said he was to have met Archbishop Charles J. Chaput this week. An archdiocesan spokesman would not confirm a meeting had been scheduled because Chaput considers these meetings to be private.

John Delaney, 45, said it would have been his first meeting with any top bishop, decades after first being raped at age 11 at St. Cecilia Parish in Northeast Philadelphia.

He said he had planned to tell Chaput that he was unhappy that the prelate helped defeat a measure to loosen the state statute of limitations on abuse cases, a change victims had sought. While under pressure from church and insurance industry lobbyists, the Pennsylvania Senate late last month quashed the proposal.

“If [Chaput is] a guy who can stop a bill that can decide my fate,” Delaney said, “he should be able to sit in a room with me and be man enough to talk about it.”

He said he had expected to meet with Chaput next Monday.

In a statement Wednesday, archdiocesan spokesman Ken Gavin did not confirm or deny that a discussion with Delaney had been in the works because Chaput “considers these meetings to be private.”

“Neither he nor the archdiocese publicizes or politicizes meetings with abuse survivors,” Gavin wrote. “Reciprocity in that regard is set forth as a clear expectation to all parties before any meeting is scheduled. If anyone were to turn a meeting of this nature into a public or political event, it would not be in keeping with the spirit of a pastoral encounter.”

He added, “If a victim has been promised a meeting, it will take place in due time and provided all parameters are respected.”

Delaney, who now lives in Tennessee, was among an estimated 100 children abused by the Rev. James Brzyski in the late 1970s and 1980s, soon after Brzyski was ordained.

Delaney testified about his experience before a Philadelphia grand jury, which in a three-year probe turned up allegations against 169 priests over several decades in the five-county archdiocese.

That grand jury’s report in September 2005 vilified archdiocesan leaders for concealing what they knew about attackers in order to skirt scandal and legal liability.

Brzyski “was one of the archdiocese’s most brutal abusers – emotionally as well as physically,” the grand jury wrote. “Had they cared, archdiocesan managers could have acted to stop Father Brzyski from ruining the lives of innumerable children.”

Despite a trove of damning personnel documents from archdiocesan files, the probe produced no criminal charges – in large part because of Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations.

The legislation would have allowed lawsuits against private institutions for past child sex attacks. Victims up to age 50 would have been eligible to sue.

Chaput fought the bill with church leaflets, pulpit speeches by priests, and, according to some lawmakers, rebukes for their supporting the measure, which passed the House with near-unanimity in April. The Senate eliminated the retroactivity piece. The bill is back in the House, its fate uncertain.

Delaney, a self-described former “bar brawler” and “bad guy” who fought years of alcohol and cocaine addiction and spent time in prison, said he was angry and requested the meeting with Chaput. The archdiocese has been paying for his therapy and other trauma care for the last seven or so years, he said.

At first, he said, the archdiocese’s victim assistance officials warned that Chaput would not speak about pending legislation. Delaney said he insisted there be no such restrictions on the conversation and they agreed to that.

On Monday, Delaney said he was asked to choose a date for the meeting – July 18 or 20. He chose July 18. The archdiocese agreed to pay for his airfare from Tennessee, he said.

He has been “very public” about his ordeal for years, Delaney said, so he told a local online news reporter about his planned meeting. A story appeared Tuesday.

That night, Delaney said, a victim services official told him that “due to the article that came out,” the meeting was off.

“She spoke with the bishop and the bishop said the meeting was supposed to be pastoral and not a media or publicity event,” Delaney said.

Delaney said the goal of a meeting with Chaput was “personal satisfaction that he saw my face and got to hear what I had to say.”

 

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